Girardeau’s Calvinism Reviewed: Introduction

While work­ing Powell’s City of Books over dur­ing one of my days on vaca­tion, I acquired a hand­some vol­ume of “Calvin­ism and Evan­gel­i­cal Armini­an­ism” by John Lafayette Girardeau, a remark­able man of French Huguenot and Scot­tish Pres­by­ter­ian descent, who pas­tored slaves and slave own­ers and taught at the orig­i­nal Colum­bia sem­i­nary in the South, and voiced the sole “nay” in the vote to seg­re­gate the South­ern Pres­by­ter­ian Church in 1874.

Some­one named James M. Bul­man, in the intro­duc­tion, cites “one of the Hodges” as admir­ing this book as “the most con­vinc­ing argu­ment for Calvin­ism to be seen any­where”. Mr. Bul­man agrees, cit­ing “lit­er­ary crafts­man­ship befit­ting French extrac­tion; and some­thing of the gen­uinely ora­tor­i­cal, pul­sat­ing with warmth of reli­gious devo­tion”, as well as the unique abil­ity to fully com­mu­ni­cate the strength of a the­o­log­i­cal sys­tem afforded by defend­ing one par­tic­u­lar, fully-​​orbed view (in this case Girardeau’s par­tic­u­lar brand of fed­er­al­ist sub­lap­sar­ian Calvin­ism) against its strongest con­tender (Wes­leyan, or “Evan­gel­i­cal” Arminianism).

Hav­ing once held to all five of the points upheld at the Synod of Dort, and still hold­ing to a unique respect for, and par­tial agree­ment with, the Reformed tra­di­tion, I have decided to attempt a char­i­ta­ble review and exact­ing cri­tique of Girardeau’s treat­ment of the objec­tions to Uncon­di­tional Elec­tion from God’s good­ness and from man’s moral respon­si­bil­ity. These treat­ments only make up a frac­tion of the book, but they are for­mi­da­ble in their own right and are the sec­tions I am most inter­ested in.

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